A feast of fish
Jill Dupleix's salmon and spinach en croute. Photo: Marina Oliphant
Fish pie is a comforting British dish that is topped with creamy mashed potatoes. I like to make it every year for my family (except our vegetarian) on Good Friday.
It takes a bit of time and planning, but the results are quite luscious and well worthwhile. I would be disappointed if there was none leftover for the next day. I like to serve it with English spinach but peas work well, too.
I generally use three or four different types of fish for the pie. In my recipe, the fish is poached in court bouillon. This is an aromatic liquid used in classic French cooking for poaching fish and seafood. It is easy to make and can be done ahead. Although you could cook the fish using another method, poaching it in court bouillon has the added benefit that the poaching broth can be used in the sauce, making it light and delicately flavoured.
The pie is lovely when made with plenty of butter but you can reduce the amount of saturated fat by substituting extra-virgin olive oil for some of the butter.
Make the court bouillon ahead if you can. Poach the fish, then make the parsley sauce, cook and mash the potatoes and assemble and bake the pie.
Add a layer of English spinach under the fish or stir peas through the sauce. Add sliced hard-boiled eggs to the sauce. Heat sliced spring onions in the milk for the mash, instead of using chives.
>>Diana Lampe is a Canberra writer, firstname.lastname@example.org.
You need about 1 kilogram of fish for the pie, in any type or combination you like.
600g white fish fillets such as ling
300g salmon fillets
1 small piece smoked cod (optional)
1 quantity court bouillon (cold; see recipe above)
lemon wedges, to serve
1 ¼ cups milk
1 ¼ cups poaching broth
50g (3 tbsp) butter, or butter and olive oil
50g (4 tbsp) plain flour
sea salt and white or black pepper
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
squeeze of lemon
¼ cup chopped curly- leaf parsley
6 big potatoes (about 1.2kg), King Edward or desiree, peeled and quartered
1 cup full-cream milk
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
sea salt and pepper
1 bunch chives, snipped
2 tbsp grated 50g butter, or olive oil
Rinse the fish, then place the pieces of white fish and salmon in a deep wide pan with the court bouillon. Bring gently to the boil. Cover, take off the heat and allow the fish to cook in the hot liquid - about five minutes for smaller pieces.
Transfer the fish to a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and break into large flakes. Strain the liquid and keep aside 1½ cups for the sauce. Freeze the rest for fish soup another day.
Poach the piece of smoked fish (if using) separately in water, then discard the water.
To make the parsley sauce, heat the milk and broth in a small saucepan or the microwave. Melt the butter or butter/olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Gradually pour in the hot milk and broth, whisking. Stir until it thickens to a smooth sauce. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg and simmer a few minutes. Add more milk or broth if it is too thick. Add lemon and parsley.
Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold salted water. Bring to the boil and simmer partly covered until tender. Drain thoroughly and mash. Heat the milk with the nutmeg and seasoning in a small saucepan or the microwave. Briskly stir into the potato as much milk as you need to make a creamy mash. Mix through the chives.
To assemble, preheat the oven to 180C regular or 160C fan-forced. Butter a large baking dish with a six-cup capacity. Arrange the flaked fish in the dish and pour the parsley sauce over it. The dish can be prepared ahead to this stage.
Cover the top with the mashed potato and fork it up to look like a rough sea. Sprinkle with the parmesan.
Place the dish on a tray as it will most likely bubble over. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Serve as soon as you can with wedges of lemon and a green vegetable.